Help with Switching Between OU and Semi-Auto


November 24, 2007, 07:09 PM
How does one adjust from shooting an OU to a semi-auto?

I've been shooting a 12-gauge Ruger Red Label for the past 10 years. I'm only 5'3" so I found that after I had the LOP shortened to 13 3/4", it shoots pretty much where I point it. My kill ratio in the field is reflected in the trap range (80%+). While this number is by no means any cause for pride on the trap, it matters most in the field. It means cleaner kills, less cripples, and easier on the wallet since the price of shells have gone up.

In the past two pheasant seasons, I've never shot more than two boxes (Kent Fast Steel #4 - 3"). That might sound like a lot of firepower for a rooster but I've tested the gamut of loads over the years and found this particular load to shoot best for me and my Red Label when it comes to pheasants.

This year I purchased a used Benelli Montefeltro (12-g in excellent condition) because the Red Label is quite heavy to carry, especially when walking through thick cattail sloughs. However, my hit ratio is dreadful! I won't mention any numbers but lets just say I'm on my 4th box and it's only Thanksgiving! I've had the LOP shortened to 13 3/4" to better fit my short arms. There's been enough birds that I flushed in front of my pointing Brittany and emptied all shells to no avail. For these close flushes, I normally count to "3 apples" before pulling the trigger. I've changed from IC to Mod to Full chokes as the season progresses and have found no consistency. Since I only shoot steel shots, I've used Kent #2 and #4 shots. Again, no improvements. Worse is the fact that the hits are not clean kills. My Brittany will do a decent job of retrieving when he sees the flush and shot but if it's a wild flush, he's not good at hunting dead. I hate losing cripples in the field.

Anyone tell me how I can improve my shooting? At this point, I don't think that I'm a bad shot but I do believe that I need to get to know the Montefeltro better. Any input would be greatly appreciated.

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November 24, 2007, 07:45 PM
I do not believe that you should shoot steel shot through a full choke. I would not use more than a modified choke.

Are you shooting on land that requires that you shoot steel? If not I'd shoot lead. Personally I prefer 6's for big birds like pheasants.

Do you know where you are hitting the birds with your newer semi-auto gun: high, low, left, right?

You need to visit the patterning board. Use the choke and shell that you will use when you hunt and see where it shoots. You may have a gun that doesn't fit you or doesn't shoot straight.

Dave McCracken
November 24, 2007, 09:16 PM
Patterning is your friend. My guess is your Benelli is not shooting where you're looking.

November 24, 2007, 09:35 PM
Yeah, go out there and pattern the dang thing! Chances are you've adapted your shooting style to your ruger by figuring out where it shoots, and your new gun patterns differently. You've already wasted enough ammo and braincells trying to figure out what the heck is going on, just pattern it.

By the title, I thought you were asking how to switch between the two immediately after shooting one kind. I find I just cannot switch from an O/U to an auto in skeet without my scores just diving for that day.

November 24, 2007, 09:39 PM
Pattern the gun, get it right first. But, also, a light O/U is going to point quicker and be what I call "whippy" on the swing, not as smooth as the gun that balances out front. That has messed me up more'n once and just takes concentration on the swing for a smooth swing and follow through.

Might be a little tougher with pheasants, though, because what you may be experiencing is that the repeater just comes to the shoulder slower and you don't get on the target in time many times. You're used to your lighter gun that balances better for the job at hand.

But, for sure, get the gun right and see what it does then before blaming yourself. LOL Get the gun right then take it to the range and practice with it.

November 24, 2007, 10:26 PM
I switch back and forth between an O/U and my 870. They balance differently so it takes real concentration to keep the swing smooth and not whip too far in front (with the 870), then stop for the bird to catch up, then end up shooting behind it. After patterning to see where it shoots in respect to where you are looking, I'd recommend a round or skeet or trap to get comfortable with the needed swing and follow through. I'd also bet that the drop, height at comb, and other stock parameters are different as well.

November 25, 2007, 12:25 AM
It's unanimous then. I will take it out and pattern it tomorrow afternoon. I've also printed out Dave's Patterning 101 tips. Luckily I have lots of hair or my scalp would have blistered from all the head scratchin' trying to figure out this gun.

Of the birds that I did hit with the Montefeltro, most birds were hit low. As for the chokes, I'll go back to the factory Mod choke.

Most of the places I hunt in MN are WPA's which require steel shots. I also go to IA where they also require steel.

November 27, 2007, 06:54 PM
I've patterned the gun using 22"x28" poster sheets so rather than a 30" circle, I measured a 20" circle.

1) Full choke - #2shot 1 1/4oz 3" shell @ 40yds = 72 pellets
2) Mod choke - #2shot 1 1/4oz 3" shell @ 40yds = 42 pellets
3) Mod choke - #4shot 1 1/8oz 3" shell @ 40yds = 67 pellets
4) Mod choke - #6shot 1 1/16oz 2 3/4" shell @ 40yds = 128 pellets
5) Mod choke - #2shot 1 1/4 oz 2 3/4" shell @ 30yds = 87 pellets

My guess is that a 30yd shot is probably ideal for this gun. The patterns look evenly distributed but there's no way of knowing the length of the shot column. I was actually quite surprised by the #6 shot but this would result in way too much small pellets in a bird - almost dangerous for eating. All shots were steel because where I hunt, only steel is permitted.

Is there enough data here to jump to any type of conclusion?

November 27, 2007, 09:17 PM
You will probably get better input from others that are familiar with steel shot and shot larger than 7 1/2's. My experience with your shooting is almost non-existent. But I do have these observations and questions to start this off:
Can you tell me how many pellets were in each shell type?
One of the reasons for a larger target is so you can see the parameter of the pattern.
Did you mark the aim point on the board?
What was the point of impact verses the point of aim?
If you drew a vertical and horizontal line through the aim point can you estimate the percent of shot in each of the four quadrants?
I think I disagree with the observation that you would have too many pellets in a bird to eat it. I've shot lead 6's and 7 1/2's a pheasants for years. I'd be more worried about the energy that steel #6 have at 40 yards with a 2 3/4" shell
The length of the shot column is less relevant for a flushing bird as it tends to fly away rather than flying a crossing pattern like a goose or dove.
How big were the "holes" in each pattern. How big were the spaces in between shot. I would guess that with a 42 pellet pattern (#2 above) there will be holes big enough for a bird to "escape" the shot. Do you see that in the targets?

I'll give it more thought and listen to the experts on THR. They can shoot holes in my comments too. (pun intended)

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